Displacement activity, displacement activity!

Elon Musk, the Chief Executive of electric car maker Tesla, unveiled a surprise new vehicle on Thursday night – a roadster that he said would be the “fastest production car ever” made.

Capable of going from 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds, the Tesla Roadster would be the first such car ever to break the two second mark, the entrepreneur said at a launch near Los Angeles.

He also said it would climb from 0 to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds and clear a quarter mile in 8.9 seconds. “This will the first time that any production car has broken 9 seconds in the quarter mile,” he said

With a 200 kilowatt hour battery pack, the Tesla Roadster will have a range of 620 miles on a single charge – another new record.

“The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” he said.

“Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”

The solar roof is way behind schedule, the Model 3 is having appalling manufacturing problems, the company’s burning through limited capital – great, upgrade the software and put a bigger battery in!

Fiddling and Rome come to mind.

It’s obviously possible that Tesla’s going to make it but that’s not the way I would be betting at present.

31 thoughts on “Displacement activity, displacement activity!”

  1. The news overnight was full of news of Tesla’s new truck range, with the chalk-scrapingly irritating headline: does the world need an electric truck?

    Bollocks to whether people *NEED* a product, products are produced because people *WANT* them.

  2. I don’t see an edge for Tesla. Most big tech companies get there by someone else dropping the ball. Dyson and Page/Brin would be unknowns if Hoover and Inktomi respectively had bought their patents.

    But BMW, Renault, Nissan are already doing electric. Not as enthusiastically, maybe, but they have their eye on the ball.

  3. Story on zero hedge about a new type of battery which will render Elon’s best steam-engine-like within a couple of years.

    Anyway what’s wrong with steam engines?

  4. Promised new battery tech is like promised nuclear fusion or cures for baldness–always the sizzle etc.

    And even if you can go 620 miles in the crapwagon it will likely have the performance of a milk float by the time the battery is low never mind super-speed.

    And of course there are the hours of re-charging required.

    These electric car fans must have read too much Aesop as kids.

  5. 0-60 in sub 2 seconds & +250mph sound oh so tempting… But until radar transparency & active camouflage come fitted as standard, I don’t think I’ll bother. Unless they start selling driving licences in packets of ten.

  6. @Will – from that electrek article:
    ‘500 miles range and 1 min charging’
    500 mile range for a car* equates to around 200 kWh of battery capacity; recharging that in a minute would require a 12MW supply; and a ‘filling station’ would need > 100 MW.

    * for Tesla’s new (drawing of a) Semi 500 miles at the claimed “< 2 kWh/mile" would need 1 MWh of batteries – recharging that in the claimed "30 minutes" will be 'challenging'.

  7. @Chris Miller
    And of course the size of the cable required. Which depends on amperage. Even at domestic voltages you’d be looking at something several inches in diameter. Be interesting trying to mate a plug to a socket – both about a foot across – with the whole issue weighing a couple of hundredweight.or more.

  8. But BMW, Renault, Nissan are already doing electric. Not as enthusiastically, maybe, but they have their eye on the ball.

    I suspect their eyes are on the same ball as Tesla’s, which will prove to be the wrong one.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset


    The latest thinking is contactless charging and some trials are taking place in Milton Keynes with buses:

    The bus is at the ‘rest stop’ for 13 minutes, with the induction charging lasting 10 minutes before passengers board. During this time the 120 kW induction plate provides up to twothirds of the energy consumed on the 15 mile bus route, which runs from the north to south of Milton Keynes, via the town centre.

    The buses leave the depot just after 6am in the morning fully charged and can stay out all day, returning at 11.30pm. They never come back with less than 40% of battery charge remaining, which helps to maintain battery efficiency.

    Although I’m not convinced they’lll ever get that up to 10’s of MWhs that will be needed for the highest performance cars an. d of course a bus has lots of space for batteries.

  10. Contactless charging via the road?

    Leaving aside the enormous power needed, what happens to anyone crossing the road with hob-nailed boots on?

    Or instead 13 minute rest stops–how often?–to run 7.5 miles in one direction and 7.5 miles back again isn’t going to fire up many car adverts on the telly is it?

  11. Why bother with induction charging? The ferry’s round here have just gone electric, & they use a robot to connect the cables. They have 10 mins to charge for a 20 mins trip. The robots were necessary because to pull the cables manually would have taken too long.

    If you can induction charge in 10 mins, you could probably cable charge in 5, while the passengers were boarding. Or have a longer range, etc…

  12. @BiND
    Once again, physics intervenes. The size of the induction plate capable of handling 120kW will be commensurate with the size of the bus. But even then, that’s only 26kW/h in 13 minutes. At an average speed of 30mph, when moving, the bus spends 1 minute charging for every two miles travelled. Scaled for a car & that’s 25 hours for a 500 mile range. I fuelled my little diesel hatch last night. In 3 minutes I put 640km of range in it. The big car takes 740km in about 30 seconds more.

  13. Can we please not use kW/h – it is not kilowatts per hour – it is kilowatts times hours. [/pendantry]

  14. Well, it’s probably not that important whether he makes it or not, though I suspect there’s a bit of “production car” shenanigans a la rallying.

    The important thing is what happens, given the rate they burn cash, when it all goes titsup.com, where Tesla’s engineering knowledge ends up. Given that Musk appears to be a dab hand at subsidy farming, one way or another, I’d guess that it won’t diffuse out into other firms. Tesla’s jobs will be “saved”. For prosperity, or something.

  15. But BMW, Renault, Nissan are already doing electric.

    And BMW, Renault (and Daimler) all trade at 50% of less or turnover and a p/e of well under 10 v 7 x turnover and makes a loss.

    Still, it’d take a brave person to short Tesla in these crazy markets where bitcoin etns are the best performing asset by a country mile, 10 bagging in 12 months.

    PS. Nissan is Renault now.

  16. Is the range cited under the performance cited here, in which case pretty good (about five times better than an Alfa Romeo…). I somehow suspect not though.

    As to the battery sceptics – let the markets sort out what is best. Tesla at least are not a government funded agency, but a company that actually takes investors money, so they are not actually reprehensible.

  17. Musk considers the reports of his demise grossly exaggerated. So he keeps being a car company magnate. Hyping a super quick roadster is well played.

  18. Tesla will be acquired one day. They’ve built too good a brand and the Model S is a pretty nifty car. I’ve been in a few. But once the cash runs out and the investors weary it’ll be bought, and Musk will be quite comfortably well off digging tunnels to the moon.

  19. The bus induction charging plates have been around for a while, I recall seeing stuff about trials 5 years ago, it’s basically the same technology used for some light rail trains but for charging instead of direct power if it’s the same one I saw before.

  20. Tim Newman,

    Maybe. But I’m just saying that Tesla have no way to win. Little guys beat big guys by doing innovation that the big guys ignore

    It’s not even like Tesla’s cars stand out. They’re as bland as Hyundais. For the same money, you can buy a Maserati Ghibli which looks like the sort of car that costs £60K.

  21. I think the buses charge at the depot.

    Electric buses are one of those things that seems quite sensible. Short range, low speed, lots of stop/start, reduces city pollution.

    Plus, electric buses help stop morons wanting to bring back trams, the worst thing to come back after measles and vinyl records.

  22. Solid Steve 2: Squirrels of The Patriots

    I’m sure you’ve all seen the handful of Tesla chargers they have at motorway service stations now. And we know how busy petrol stations are during rush hours.

    Given the most ridiculously optimistic charging time for an electric car is 30 minutes (I know, but bear with…) anybody care to guess would happen if only 20% of traffic switched to electric cars?

    Even assuming it’s technically feasible to put dozens/scores/hundreds of charging points at Charnock Richard, and have them all used at once?

    Sounds like a tremendous opportunity to get to know your fellow travelers far more than you’d probably like.

    Is this all just a conspiracy by the coaching inn trade?

  23. Why are people assuming Musk won’t incorporate new battery technology into his designs? The 600 mile range of the Tesla truck is proof that Musk isn’t sticking with old battery tech. Older battery tech allows for a range of ~60 miles in the same form. Something has to give to allow for an order of magnitude larger range and battery energy density is the only thing that could provide this size of an increase.

    “Given that Musk appears to be a dab hand at subsidy farming”

    Really? This is the man who designed a new EELV for half of the amount ULA gets per year just to be ‘available’. NASA expected the development costs would be ten times higher. SpaceX has been terrible if the goal is subsidy farming.

    Things are murkier on the Tesla side but, once the EV tax credit goes away sometime in 2018, we can expect Tesla will be the least subsidized US automaker by virtually every metric. If Musk were a dab hand at subsidy farming, we’d see a major lobbying effort to increase the per-manufacturer EV tax credit cap.

    “Doubt any ice road truckers would drive a Tesla Semi to haul their load even if pay doubled.”

    Having actually watched a few episodes of Ice Road Truckers, I know that one of the big dangers is caused by engine vibration. Four motors should allow for better traction control than one engine. IF(and this is a really big if) the batteries can withstand the cold, an EV truck should be far better for ice roads than diesel.

    “Batteries are the wrong technology. We should be investing in the hydrogen economy.”

    Since you obviously haven’t noticed, a lot of money has been invested into hydrogen storage R&D. So far, we have not found a cost effective way to store or transport hydrogen.

    You can disregard the EU reports on injecting hydrogen into the natural gas network. One major starting assumption in those reports is that all of our natural gas kit was installed after 1996. The pipelines in my neighborhood were installed during Pittsburgh’s first renaissance, in the 1950’s. Based on my tests of gas lines scavenged from an abandoned house, at 10% hydrogen, we can expect to start seeing booms within three months. Tests at 1% and 2% have been inconclusive so far. The hydrogen leaks too quickly for me to accurately determine the rate of embrittlement damage. If we want to go with hydrogen, we need to install new pipelines to transport it.

    “I’m sure you’ve all seen the handful of Tesla chargers they have at motorway service stations now.”

    Actually there aren’t any Tesla chargers on the long-distance trips I take.

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